Sunday 25 August 2013 

Dramatic Final Day Precedes Draw

Michael Clarke (right) did everything right in setting up a gripping finale before bad light ended things early
© REUTERS / Action Images
 
Kevin Pietersen's 36-ball half-century set up the gripping finale
© REUTERS / Action Images
 
England celebrate their 3-0 Ashes success
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

Australia 492-9 dec. & 111-6 dec. drew with
England 377 & 206-5 (Pietersen 62)
Fifth Ashes Test, The Oval

There was high drama on the final day of the fifth and final Ashes Test before bad light ended play with England 21 runs short of victory with four overs remaining.

After the drought of runs on days two and three, and the deluge of rain that prevented any play on day four, a packed house was treated to a wonderful day of Test cricket, in which the momentum switched throughout.

After England were bowled out for 377, Australia shuffled their batting order - sometimes seemingly at random - to make 111 for six, at which point they declared at tea to set England 227 to win.

A dashing half-century from Kevin Pietersen put England on course for victory and at 206 for five with light fading, the game was poised for a grand finale, but the umpires had no choice but to take the players off.

England therefore, take the series 3-0, and for the first time since 1977, Australia failed to win a Test in an Ashes series.

They gave themselves every chance, though, and for that captain Michael Clarke must be lauded, although he will have lost a few friends in the closing moments as he appeared to be trying to put pressure on the umpires to end play as the light closed in.

Resuming their first innings on 247 for four, England began well as they aimed to avoid having to follow on, and although Chris Woakes (25) drove loosely to be caught behind and Ian Bell fell similarly to become James Faulkner's first Test wicket for 45, they made it comfortably.

Then they played the sort of attacking cricket that so many were demanding earlier in the game. Matthew Prior hit 47 in 57 balls while Graeme Swann thumped 34 in 24 balls although it was Faulkner who benefited most to pick up figures of four for 51.

Australia opened with David Warner (12) and Shane Watson (26) but although runs came at a good rate, wickets continued to tumble.

Faulkner was pushed up to number three and made a run-a-ball 22 before Stuart Broad (4-43) had him and Brad Haddin (0) dismissed in consecutive deliveries.

Broad went on to dismiss Steve Smith for seven and Ryan Harris for one and at tea, Clarke had made 28 not out and Mitchell Starc an unbeaten 13.

The declaration left England a target of 227 in 44 overs.

There were hints that England were prepared to attack the target as Alastair Cook hit 34 and Joe Root 11, the latter falling to a poor stroke to just his 17th delivery.

Jonathan Trott then played a vital innings of 59 in 87 balls. For without him and Cook adding 64 for the second wicket, Pietersen would not have had the platform to come in and spank a 36-ball half-century which turned the game back in England's favour.

He was perhaps at something approaching his dominant, dashing best, monstering 10 fours, before he was caught by Warner off Harris. Seven runs later, Trott was also out, trapped in front by Faulkner, and the game was again there for either side to take.

England were still in pole position, thanks to 17 apiece from man of the series Bell and Chris Woakes, but when Bell was run out by Starc, that was all the play the umpires could allow.

It wasn't the ideal way for any game, let alone an Ashes match in front of a full house, to end, but the rules are the rules, and they were applied as they should have been by the umpires.

The boos that were directed at Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena were, on this occasion, misplaced.

4-0 would have flattered England a touch, but Clarke had little option other than to try to take a win from a difficult series for the tourists, albeit one in which they improved throughout.

Yet, England know that improvement is possible. Bell scored 544 runs and was magnificent but on several occasions he came in and rescued top-order collapses and there are valid questions to be asked about their bowling reserves.

Uniquely, Australia get a chance to hit back later this year when the reverse series begins in Brisbane in November.

It's set up nicely already.

© Cricket World 2013

More from Cricket World